On March 1st, 2023 Sari Steuber and Skip Shuda of Transition Town Greater Media (TTM) presented to West Chester University students, faculty, and staff as part of the WCU Spring 2023 Sustainability Research and Practice Seminar.
The seminar was introduced by Bradley Flamm, Director of the Office of Sustainability at WCU.
Sari and Skip reviewed the history of Transition Towns, in particular its underpinning in Permaculture. This is the design methodology that takes into account the whole system in which the object being designed, is embedded. This model provides the context for the way we approach our work, looking for positive alternatives to business-as-usual responses to our climate, economic, and social inequity challenges. We look for broad-spectrum solutions rather than narrowly-focused ones—bottom-up projects that engage our community members, focusing on changing mindsets as well as practical, on-the-ground outcomes.
The goal is to improve our community’s resilience by localizing our economies, creating or supporting local supply chains, reducing our waste by supporting a sharing economy, reducing our consumption and our use of toxic materials, increasing biodiversity and safe habitats for pollinators and wildlife, restoring our relationships with nature and our fellow living beings. In essence, Transition seeks to engage the power of community to envision a future that works for everyone, and then works on practical alternatives to help realize that vision.
We then described, by way of example, a number of the initiatives underway in TTM and ended with a Q&A session that revolved around what’s next for TTM, how we operate, and how best to work with student groups. Some highlights are listed below.
The entire 2023 Sustainability Practice and Research presentation on the role of Transition Towns can be viewed here. We invite you to peruse it and get to know how we operate and why.
Transition Town Greater Media is grateful to West Chester University for inviting us to participate in the important work of their sustainability forum. We enjoyed the opportunity to interact with their students on what the Transition movement brings to the important question of what our future can look like.
We started the FreeStore to provide a space where people could share items they they don’t need—creating an economy based on abundance rather than scarcity. People in need could receive items they wanted for free, people with too much stuff could reduce their clutter, things could be kept out of the trash stream, and less new stuff would need to be purchased.
Improving and protecting biodiversity improves the health of our environment—which is a form of infrastructure— increases biomass while removing carbon from the atmosphere and improves mental health, as has been shown by measurably-reduced crime and anxiety levels.
Our projects include helping to grow the Green Wagon Project (which puts native plants in the ground), educating people on the dangers of herbicides and pesticides as well as better alternatives to chemical applications, and planning a Garden Tour and a Community Ecofest.
We work closely with Media Borough’s Environmental Advisory Council on most of our Zero Waste projects. These include instituting a Borough-wide weekly curbside pickup of residential kitchen waste, which is taken to Linvilla Orchards to compost.
The purpose of this program was to reduce the trash that Media sends to the Chester incinerator and regenerate this waste into healthy soil for growing more food. Other projects we’ve worked on were the Plastic Bag and Straw ordinance, including researching alternatives the Media businesses could substitute for plastic bags and other items. We have also worked with the County on their Sustainability Plan.
Inspired by the work of Judy Wicks and the Philadelphia Circle of Aunts & Uncles, we seek to provide a caring, listening, supportive network for small business owners and entrepreneurs who might not have a wealthy aunt or uncle or successful business cousin that they can seek out as mentors and patrons.
This past year saw us meeting and interacting with several business owners and providing low interest business-building loans to a Community Internet Radio station, CMPRadio, and a community center/clothing and accessories boutique, R&N Enterprise. Both businesses are in Chester.
We support growing and having access to local food for environmental and health reasons. Small farms and gardens can grow food without using harmful chemicals or mistreating animals.
Local farms avoid the necessity of transporting food long distances, using fewer fossil fuels, generating less pollution, and producing fresher food. The Media Eats Local group has compiled an online Resource Guide to the local food that can be found around Media—in Farms and CSAs, Farmers’ Markets, Restaurants, and Retail Stores.
A new addition in 2022, the HSG has grown quickly and really demonstrated the versatility and high function of the hemp plant. We held several events, including cooking classes, craft-making, field trips, as well as a premier Courageous Conversation event at the Media-Upper Providence Free Library.
This event was created to dispel the myths around hemp and showcase its many uses. This year, we received a grant from the PA Dept of Agriculture to develop a video/podcasting series on hemp/cannabis.
This annual Holiday Fair brings together local artisans and craftspeople to sell their creative handmade wares. As an alternative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Green Sunday Holiday Craft Fair supports our local small business economy.
This keeps our money within our communities and allows consumers to buy unique, handmade gifts from the makers themselves rather than from an anonymous online source.
Skip Shuda, and expert forager Ira Josephs, have been organizing occasional foraging outings during which we scout for edible mushrooms, nuts, berries, fruits, tubers and more.
One special event this group organized was a Plant Walk in Glen Providence Park with naturalist Tyler Kruszewski who taught us how to identify, harvest, and consume common herbs we can find in the natural places around us, in ways that make us good partners with the land.
This is one of our most primal community-building activities. With the trends of COVID, work-from-home, and Zoom meetings, we had fewer and fewer opportunities to randomly connect with friends, neighbors, and strangers.
We held five circles in 2022. Some were free ranging, others were focused on natural events such as the Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice. In a time when our mental health represents a silent crisis, we need more opportunities for connecting, processing, and healing. Fire Circles help us strengthen and build our community mycelium.
Heart & Soul / Inner Transformation
In Transition, we believe that nurturing and supporting our members’ well-being is as important as the work we do. We find opportunities to nurture spirit in events such as Solstice and Equinox celebrations, restoring our connection with nature and the earth’s rhythms.
We also have an Inner Transformation group that focuses on evolving to a higher state of consciousness via many different spiritual paths, including communing with Nature, Native American wisdom, meditation, strengthening intuition, and more.
Those are some of our most active circles and projects, currently. Our Annual Planning sessions, usually held in January, surface many interests and creative ideas. If you’d like to propose a project, be sure to contact us about it. We review current projects and decide on potential new ones at our monthly Steering meetings. If a project generates enough interest among our members to create a small team dedicated to working on it, and it matches well with Transition principles, we will most likely take it on!